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Change and Betrayal

A final word from my short trip to New York. I mentioned that I had the honour of seeing Jhumpa Lahiri speak at the NYPL on west 42nd street near time square. The host and speaker was a man named Paul Holdengraber and he said something that has stuck with me since that evening.

“Every change necessitates a betrayal.”

He was quoting someone else and referring it to the conversation with Jhumpa, but to me those words were everything.

Thinking about the word betrayal; how deep it is, how significant it is within that phrase. Not sacrifice, but betrayal, meaning you mustn’t just remove something from your life as sacrifice suggests, but you must directly oppose that something if you hope to achieve change, or drastic change as I see it. 

In the context of the conversation with Jhumpa, the speaker was referring to her leaving New York for Italy and learning the language so intimately that she has recently written her latest book in full Italian.

In her initial move from the city, Jhumpa left her entire library of of English books behind. All of them. She didn’t take any. For me that showed that she not only had to sacrifice “something” to learn the language, but she had to completely abandon and betray the English language in order to attain the level of fluidity with Italian she set out to achieve.

How many of us can honestly say we are willing to be that bold?

How many of us are willing to go against our common way of thinking, of behaving, of seeing things, so we can transform our lives? And believe me when I say transform is the precise word. The sharper the betrayal, the greater the transformation.

Let that sink in for a while. Let that concept really take its course. So many of us want to do great things, want to be seen as great influencers, but are we willing to betray…

I had to take a hard look at myself, as well. I post so much about my passion for writing, for being a novelist. And though I feel like I can certainly answer affirmatively to the former question, in my own mind I’m left to wonder what exactly that betrayal will look like.

#HistoryOrNothing

Read my debut novella "THOUGHTS OF A FRACTURED SOUL," here.

18

18 was the age. The most memorable. Finally legal in my country, but that wasn’t the distinction that forced me into adulthood. 18 was the age. I dropped out of high school, paid rent for the first time, felt broke for the first time.

18 was the age my daughter was conceived.

It was the first time I felt real fear, real insecurity about my abilities to be a father. All I wanted to do was play ball, chase girls, laugh with my friends. Instead I was nervous, anxious, dealing with family split between being unforgiving and empathetic.

Either way, 18 was the age I trained myself to not be sensitive. To know that from here on in I had to be strong. My existence wasn’t all that was at stake, my ego wasn’t the only thing to be scarred.

18 was the year I became a father. A child myself, but who had time to think about that. Who had time to try to make sense of what that word really meant.

Father.

Didn’t have one myself, but vowed to be better. Didn’t care that he was never there because I would be.

And I was.

And I still am.

18 was the first time I looked into my daughter’s eyes. First time I held her. First time I heard her cry.

13 years later and I can’t help but reminisce sometimes.

18...

#PassionAndPaper

Read "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul."

 

Reminiscing On My Holidays As a Millennial Parent

  In so many ways I’m the prototypical Millennial. Obsessively chasing my passion? Check. Freelancer? Check. Renting instead of buying? Check. Parent? Woah! I know I can fill that box with a check-mark, but that’s one many Millennials would leave blank. Postponed parenting is certainly becoming one of the trademarks of this generation, but it’s a trademark I’ve neglected, whether intentionally or not is up for debate.

Either way here I am, a former teenage parent of a now teenage daughter. And as the holidays approach I can’t help but to look back on all the previous holidays, the good and the not so good, the struggles and confusion, and the lessons my daughter has taught me along the way.

M.I.A Holidays

M.I.A was the reality of the first few years of my daughter’s life. After dropping out of high school and toughing things out for the first year of her life, I got myself together and accepted a full athletic scholarship to a university in New York state. Being from Toronto, that meant committing to only seeing my daughter over the summer for the next four years.

The holidays were even tougher. Our only communication was me listening to her mumble dada on the phone from my dorm room or from on the road in a hotel room. I remember worrying that when I did finally graduate, my daughter would have no idea who I was. That I would be a stranger only familiar by my voice. These were the lonely holidays, but I kept it in the back of my mind that higher education was the right thing for me to do, and it would pay off. It had to.

Postgraduate Lessons

No masters classes for me. But I headed back to Toronto knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and started working on the manuscript for my first book, taking any and every odd job I could in the meantime. As you could imagine, odd jobs don’t bring home much bacon. That meant the holidays were still a struggle.

And although I was home now, able to see my daughter for the holidays, it pains me to admit that I consciously remember thinking I would rather be hundred of miles away. You see at this point in my parenting journey, I equated my worth as a father to my net worth. And since I was barely scraping by, living in a one bedroom apartment with my girlfriend at the time, dreaming of being Khaled Hosseini but living like the typical starving artist, I felt embarrassed in my ability as a provider, and that embarrassment lead me away from even wanting to spend time with my daughter over the holidays.

Her gifts were small during these times. A Miley Cyrus cd (Hannah Montana days), an easel for her to do her art. One year I remember asking what she wanted and braced myself for the answer. Then when she said all she wanted was a collection of colouring books, I knew she understood. And when she ripped open that wrapping paper and acted like I bought her whatever Apple gadget was hot at the time, then I understood.

Too many thoughts were racing through my head during these holidays. Does anyone really know what it feels like to be not just any parent, but a Millennial parent? How can anyone know what it means to buy your ten year old daughter a cell phone one Christmas, and still have her be the last of her friends to get one. How can they know the pressure this generation puts on you to be a mega success at 25, and feel like a failure if you still aren’t by 30?

All of these thoughts weighed on me daily, but eventually they would become fuel. Eventually I would learn that I'm not or wasn't the only parent going through shit. That although some of the pressures were specific to my generation, the actual root feelings weren't specific to just me.

I had to stay motivated, stay focused on my vision and take the actions necessary to see that vision through to the end.

"Just keep going, Kern."

I repeated that regularly throughout each day. Reminded myself that I wasn't going to be perfect, but if I put in the work, drowned out the other noise, and stayed completely committed to being the best writer possible, then I would eventually be successful.

Holiday Spirit

I know people think that when you have kids there’s this automatic kind of love that comes with it. And of course that’s true to some extent. But what I’ve noticed is that you actually fall in love with your children. As years go by and you watch them grow, you realize that all they really care about is the time you spend together. They actually don’t remember the gifts as much as they remember you being there to watch them open it, or the endless hours spent on the couch watching Home Alone. That time, that familiarity, that getting to know each other; that breeds the kind of love that can't be broken.

The holidays are different now. I’m happy to say I’m forging an amazing career as an author and freelance writer with the flexibility to spend as much time with my daughter as I want. I’ve also fictionalized our relationship from start to end in my debut novella “Thoughts of a Fractured Soul,” which I tell a story around the struggle of finding and maintaining ambition as a Millennial parent.

Her gifts are a bit different now, too. OK, a lot different. But to tell you the truth, she still really doesn’t care. All she wants is for me to be there. And whether I buy her colouring books or the new Huaraches, she smiles the same smile and the bond we’ve forged remains unbreakable through another holiday season.

#PassionAndPaper

More from me www.kerncarter.com

Get your copy of "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," here.

 

 

 

Let Success Be Your New Life

I'm blessed to have some intelligent friends around me who can hold some truly insightful conversations. The convo I'm talking about this time, though, was short, simple, and sent in the form of a text you see in the feature picture. If you notice the time on that message it's almost 2:00am, so it's like my friend had a sudden epiphany. We've had a few conversations about this in person after his message, and debated the validity of this statement. I mean, is that what "ultimate" success takes? Does it truly take sacrificing your entire life? If you read the end of his message, he actually gives very specific examples of how he's had to change his life if he wants to stay on the path he's currently on.

"Missing family engagement parties and bachelor parties and barbecues. Cuz you gotta focus on basketball or workouts or work or meetings."

For my friend, those other things take precedence in his life right now. More precedence than engagement or bachelor parties or anywhere else he's been invited. I think what get's scary for most people, like the vast majority of people, is that if they sustain that level of focus, that level of discipline, will it all work out the way they want?

That's the struggle, isn't it. You actually don't know everything is going to go your way. You don't know if working overtime is actually going to get you that promotion, or if you quit your job and start your own business that it will actually be successful. And the next question you ask yourself is just how long will you have to put in all this work before you get the payoff?

Oh now we're getting somewhere. We're all willing to put in the work if we knew for sure it will lead to something better. But only the people who are "ultimately" successful put in the work already KNOWING it will lead to something better, and with the understanding that the journey is part of the payoff.

Tough pill to swallow, tough lesson to learn. Hard to move forward without security, right? Without some kind of assurance. But it goes back to the title of this article: Are you willing to let success be your new life?

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#PassionAndPaper

 

 

Just A Millennial Looking for Validation

I’ve had some really amazing conversations this week. Some have been 3 hour marathons on multiple subjects, others have been simple text messages that have sparked powerful realizations. The one conversation that has stayed with me centered around my friend asking me to verbalize in one word why I do what I do. Essentially, why do I write. After dancing around the question and talking about how I want to touch as many people with my words as possible, and impact lives blah blah blah, he turned to me and said “one word, Kern. Scream it.”

I looked at him and said I want to “impress.”

He nodded his head and chuckled. “I sense some need for validation, Kern. Am I right?”

I thought about it for a while and up till now still haven’t responded. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how right he is. I can’t escape being a Millennial and in fact embrace it to the fullest. But when I think about many of my friends or people I know who rather take photos than work retail, or live with their parents so they can build their freelance careers. When I think of all of the amazing Millennials I have met through social media who have a voice or are looking to be heard, I have to say that we are a generation who more than anything are looking for validation.

And no I haven’t done any case studies or conducted any research polls. But I interact with my generation every day. I see them moving from job to job till what they do actually matters, I read their blogs and follow their posts on social media and hear them all screaming their own "one word." I can feel their emotions when they don’t want to settle for this now mythical 9-5 lifestyle.

Through the criticisms of laziness, self entitlement, being overly ambitious, all we want is validation. We want to know that people are taking notice of what we do and that what we do actually matters. That we actually matter.

When I think of myself, I want to be considered one of the best writers of this generation. Yes I want to touch as many people as I can with my words and incite new thoughts, visions, questions, or perspectives in my readers, but at the core of all of my ambition, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I just really want them to be impressed.

It’s funny how simple this notion truly is. But we are a generation of endless noise, constant clutter, and a neverending stream of content. And though we’re birthed from a past generation whose goals were more aligned with doing a job and ensuring the security of those directly around them, it’s not hard to see why being validated through all of the mayhem becomes important to us Millennials. It means more to make a ripple in the ocean than it does to make a splash in a pool.

#PassionAndPaper

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Do or Die - The Middleground is No Place For Winners

  My daughter’s been in art school going on nine months now. Our goal is to try and get her into Etobicoke School of the Arts, one of the top art schools in all of Canada and definitely the hardest to get into in Toronto. We have this thing when every once in a while I say to her “what school are you going to,” and she’ll say “Etobicoke School of the Arts.” Then I ask her “what’s your next option,” and she’ll say “there is no other option.”

See, people have all these “secrets” to success; business leaders or life coaches write hundreds of pages and sell millions of books to tell you a very simple remedy to achieving your ULTIMATE dreams. The secret is there is no secret, you just need to create a situation, real or perceived, where you don’t give yourself any other option but success. You either do it or don't.

Urgency

I watched an interview the other day with Birdman who is the CEO of Cash Money Records. Angie Martinez, who was conducting the interview, asked him how he was able to build what is the most successful independent (hip hop) label ever. Birdman replied by saying he didn’t want to end up like everyone else around him, which meant dead or in jail. He said he had a vision and used the urgency of wanting to escape his environment and carried that energy all the way through to where he is now.

Nowhere in his response did he say he read every self help book out there, or he followed the “7 habits of all successful people,” or any other so called secret. Birdman simply wanted to succeed more than he wanted to fail, and here’s the key: this ambition would not allow him to settle for the in between, the middleground many of us find ourselves trapped.

But settling is where most of us end up. We educate ourselves somehow, push ourselves through school or some kind of training, feel good that we’ve been able to rise up just enough to feel comfortable, then we stop. It’s like there’s a huge gate so many of us get to that convinces us to say “that’s enough for me,” and we settle.

I’m going to make an assumption here based on how I view things, but for people like Birdman and the other mega successful women and men out there, stopping at that gate just isn’t going to cut it. In their mind, they’ve created enough urgency in themselves to where finding a way to the other side of that gate is the only option possible. Settling for a position that isn’t part of their vision was just never going to happen, and in their mind’s the thought of not getting to the other side is so scary that they literally create a reality similar to my daughter saying “there is no other option.”

No Escape

Creating a reality where there’s no option means you don’t give yourself any excuse for an escape. Popular (ex) blogger Necole Bitchie said she was sleeping on her aunt’s couch and working on her website when everyone around her begged her to get a “real” job. Soon her aunt’s couch turned into her own couch and she became one of the more popular celebrity bloggers out there.

Even getting shot in the head by the Taliban couldn't stop Malala Yousafzai from her quest to make a difference. Not only did she have the entire deck stacked against her being a female in a country that oppressed the gender, but she could have literally lost her life, a possibility that still exists, and that still wasn't enough from stopping her from entering that gate. Now she's a Nobel Peace prize winner and one of the most influential people in the world, male or female.

But it’s hard to create that urgency on your own. It’s hard to make yourself believe that ultimate success is dire and if you don’t achieve the level of success you’re seeking, then everything inside you will die. And for those who live in situations that are truly urgent and they really do need a way out, sometimes it’s difficult to actually escape.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, for me it’s a pretty simple formula. If you want to succeed more than anything, then you have to prove it. With urgency comes actions, so logically the more urgency you feel the more actions you should take to alleviate those feelings and replace them with feelings of fulfillment and appreciation.

I can’t tell you how great it feels to be witnessing all of my dreams happen everyday. My vision is clear, my work ethic is sound, and I take steps everyday to keep creating the reality I’ve dreamed of for so long.

#PassionAndPaper

 

Not Built for the Crowd - Looking Forward to What's Next

The song I connect with most now is from a teenage girl named Alessia Cara called “Here.” I watched her on an interview and she said the content of the song stems from a real life situation of being at a party and just wondering why she was there. I kind of feel the same way. For better or worse, I’ve been fortunate in my life to have endured many experiences at a young age - smoked my first joint at 12, went to my first club at 13, lost my virginity at 14, travelled to France at 16, had a child by 19. At 19 I also earned a full athletic scholarship to a division one university (Go Bonnies), which lead me on the path to becoming the writer I am today.

Boredom is Real

But now I find myself stuck in my own mind thinking to no one but myself how utterly bored I am with everything. I avoid any invitations from my friends to go anywhere (I'm infamous for saying maybe) unless it’s a new experience or unless I’m 100% sure I’ll enjoy it. I’ve been to the club twice in the last two years, and most places I go now usually has me venturing on my own in fear that any companionship would ruin the experience.

Influence Excites Me

I realized while I was standing in the bleachers at the annual OVO basketball finals, an event put on by Drake leading up to his now classic summer music festival, that I’m really not built to be in the crowd. I’m not built to spectate, to watch and cheer as others put on a show

Que my ego...

What excites me now, and really always has, is being part of the show. Bringing people together, stirring anticipation, being responsible for whispers and wild rumors that only get more outrageous with each broken text.

Through my writing I’ve been able to achieve some of the influence I crave. I’ve impacted lives, caused people to reflect, moved people to action in ways that I could never have guessed when I set out on this journey. I’m grateful for it all, but always find myself asking “what’s next.”

What is next?

And I don’t say this to suggest I’ve accomplished all that I want. Not even close. I just mean in those moments of adulation, disappointment, achievements, honours and awards; what is the next step and what will that feel like? Some days I feel like I’m already living what I want, other days I feel like a castaway relegated to my own island forced to create a world only I can see.

Call it my Millennial spirit, but in either case, I want more. More, more, more.

Oprah and Deepak say gratitude is one of the keys to ultimate success. But how do you balance being appreciative for what you have with this burning desire for what you want?

#PassionAndPaper

Get Thoughts of a Fractured Soul here.

 

 

 

What Does Independence Really Look Like?

I know a lot of people today are into vision boards. Writing out or posting pictures of what you envision your future to be has lead many people to fulfill their destiny's. I have a vision board too, but there’s only two words written across that plain white canvas;

FREEDOM and INDEPENDENCE.

Nothing, I mean like for real nothing, motivates me more than those two words.

Freedom and Independence.

For me, both of those words sum up everything I want in life. The freedom to live my life on my own time and terms and the independence to do so with dignity and passion. I’ll explain what I mean by giving an extreme example. I could easily not work and walk the streets and have all the freedom of time I want, but that isn’t independence. I would still have to turn to other people or other systems to look after me. Adding dignity and passion to my freedom creates independence because now I only have to turn to myself for any of my wants or needs.

Independence has so many layers, that’s why it can be one of only two words on my vision board and still be so inspiring. There’s financial independence which, for me, is a big one. I’m not afraid to say that some of my ambitions are based on materialism and can only be accomplished through the accumulation of wealth. If you ask me if I sit and think about money all day the answer is no, but I focus on touching as many people as I can, which will lead to freedom and independence, and put me on the track to all the wealth I’ll ever need.

Another form of independence exists (actually, many other forms but I’ll only get into one more), that is independent thought and action. Having the strength of mind to think for yourself, to not be easily persuaded by others to do acts against your own beliefs or character. Independence of thought to set your own goals and maintaining the strength to follow that plan from start to finish.

This, to me, is the most important form of independence.  For all the great social media has accomplished (and I love social media btw) it has made it easier than ever to follow the crowd and throw stones. Think zombies or white-walkers, moving based on only a single compulsion. But the moment you are able to think for yourself, the world opens gates that you never even knew existed.

So what does independence look like? Pretty damn good over here!

#PassionAndPaper

 

 

Find Success in the Process

It was my biggest flaw, and probably still is to some degree. Always hungry, never satisfied, always wanting more, pushing towards that next milestone with my eyes fixed like I was driving down a two way without any headlights. It's tough being ambitious, and no I'm not saying that playfully, I'm being really serious here. It's not easy living day to day with the weight of the expectations I put on myself. It's not easy having all these visions of success and literally seeing exactly where I want to be, who I want to be, how I want to live; being able to see that everyday but have it be just out of my grasp. And I feel myself getting closer, feel the energy of the people I'm touching, can actually see real results; measurable, real life progress.

But it still isn't enough.

At least it still wasn't enough.

Over the better part of the last 12 months, I've made a conscious effort to stop chasing. I've realized that everything I want I already have, and I mean that. Maybe not in the abundance that I want, but it's all right here, right now. So the last year I've let go, taken chances I normally wouldn't take, opened myself up to other people more than I ever have, forged some amazing new friendships, lost some amazing friends, saw some amazing friends lose themselves, made more money than ever before in my life, then faultered and struggled a little bit with managing that money. And I haven't even touched on my book which has brought me the most joy in my career thus far.

But I was there for it all. Conscious. Aware.

I found success in my journey.

And I don't mean this in a philosophical kind of way, I mean I truly appreciated and recognized all of my successes with friendships and my writing career during this time period. I realized that I don't have to keep waiting for this grand moment when all of a sudden I'm going to feel like I finally "made it." I don't know where "it" is and everything I'm trying to make I already have.

Ghandi has a saying that goes something like this:

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are all the same.

I can't say I'm all the way there yet, but I'm damn close!

#PassionAndPaper

Why Is Simple So Appealing?

Sometimes I get these feelings telling me that all I truly want is a simple life. I was walking down the Lakeshore today in Toronto, barely anyone else was out there except for who I assumed was a grandmother and grandfather on either side side of their young granddaughter, holding her hands strolling to a bench near the water. The breeze coming from the lake forced my hands inside my pockets and my hood over my head, but really it was the peacefulness of the scene that made me shiver. What is it about simplicity that's so appealing? I sat on raised stones close enough to feel speckles of water hit my face and thought about how much I had simplified my own life just over the past few months. I was one of those take on ten projects at a time just because I can type of people, always trying to prove something to someone, or some group, or some girl, never thinking how much I put my own purpose to the side.

But then I stopped.

I stopped caring about other people's projects, stopped caring about other people's problems, and took the completely selfish but gratifying step of putting my own priorities first. I didn't focus on anything outside of my own personal goals, which I realized were really quite simple and based on what I was great at or what I felt some emotional connection to.

20150520_141131This wasn't exactly easy because it meant letting go of things in which I had invested a lot of time, stepping away from people I cared about, and changing paths a little bit which is always at least a little bit scary. But ask me now if it's worth it and I have to say YES without hesitation. The success I've had just over the last few months proves it. The calm I've felt during that same time period is more proof. And I'm still working harder than ever, but the Millennial in me keeps giving subtle reminders that this is my life, I only live it once, and I should live it the way I choose.

So I am, and I'm loving every moment of it, thankful for all of my accomplishments and the ones yet to come, and not apologizing for having left behind a world of complication for a life of simplicity.

Till next time...

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